Stellenbosch (South Africa), Feb 8 (IANS): Ireland produced a jaw-dropping result in warm-up matches of the ICC Women's T20 World Cup to register a stunning three-wicket victory over defending champions Australia, here on Wednesday.
Australia had set Ireland 169 to win at the University Ground, with a trio of players in the runs as they ended up at 168/3 in 20 overs. Alyssa Healy (62 off 40 balls) got some runs under her belt, though she lost opening partner Beth Mooney first ball, who was cleaned up by Orla Prendergast.
All-rounder Tahlia McGrath (56 off 47 balls) walked out to meet Healy in the middle at number three, and the pair put the defending champions back into the ascendancy before the team retired both players. Ellyse Perry (40 not out from 20 balls) was also in good touch. Orla (2/19 off four overs) and Arlene Kelly (1/17) led Ireland's bowling effort.
In reply, a combined effort from the Irish batting unit saw them pull off an unexpected run chase with two balls to spare. Seven batters reached double figures, with Amy Hunter (26 from 14), Gaby Lewis (11 from 11) and Orla Prendergast (26 from 15) setting the chase up brilliantly.
Laura Delany top-scored with a crucial 32 through the middle overs, and it all came down to the final over, with Ireland requiring nine to win. Arlene's superb six off the second ball of Tahlia's over put Ireland within reach, and they sealed victory with three wickets in hand.
On the other hand, at the Western Province Cricket Ground, a strong bowling and fielding effort from England restricted New Zealand to 114/9, before Sophia Dunkley and Alice Capsey impressed again as England chased it down with ease and five wickets in hand.
In good news for New Zealand, regular captain Sophie Devine took the field and opened the batting, hitting two boundaries in a score of 14 from 15 balls after shaking off a foot injury. It took a fine delivery from Kate Cross to beat her defence, and the fast-bowler managed to clean up Bernardine Bezuidenhout with her next delivery.
Sarah Glenn removed Amelia Kerr (24 off 24 balls) with a fine catch behind square on the leg side, and Suzie Bates (36) was thwarted by the leg-spinner, this time with the ball in the leg-spinner's hand. England's quick-fire batting unit faced a new challenge on a slower surface and a slightly bigger ground, and they passed the test with flying colours.
Sophia set the tone at the top of the order with a superb and unbeaten 60 from just 38 balls, while Alice's explosive 28 came from just 13 deliveries to get England well ahead of the rate. Wickets did fall, but while Sophia was out in the middle England looked in complete control, and they reached the target with five wickets and more than six overs to spare.
There are three more warm-up matches scheduled for Wednesday -- Pakistan up against South Africa at Boland Park, West Indies facing Sri Lanka at Western Province Cricket Ground and India to play against Bangladesh at Stellenbosch.